Onion with a pearl earring: Vermeer revised

Image: Olga Pavolga, via Mauritshuis

A public challenge to create images inspired by Vermeer’s Girl with a Pearl Earring has inspired entries from the wacky to the infinitely artistic.

In celebration of its most famous artwork, the Mauritshuis invited people worldwide to make a work inspired by the Dutch master – using photography, weaving, painting, plasticine, paper quilling or whatever artistic technique they fancied.

A selection of the art is to be displayed in the same position in the museum in The Hague, while the painting itself is out on loan.

Created in 1665, the original is considered Johannes Vermeer’s most famous work. Contrary to public perception, or the popular book and film, the Mauritshuis says it is a ‘tronie’, not a real portrait but a painting of an imaginary figure. Subjects in exotic dress, like this girl with a turban and huge pearl in her ear, were popular at the time.

Image: Melanija Bartulović via Mauritshuis

In two months, the museum has received entries from a photograph of a bearded chap with a nose ring and a corn on the cob to a sprouted onion decorated with a ribbon. Especially on social media, the competition has been enthusiastically adopted.

René Timmermans, spokesman for the Mauritshuis, said the museum is counting up the number of entries so far and judging the best. ‘We knew the “Girl” still inspires a lot of people worldwide and this open call definitely confirmed it!’ he said. ‘We have received a lot of positive reactions and extremely creative submissions.’

He added: ‘People could send whatever they liked, so it is not about the most beautiful or best creation, but about how the “Girl” inspires you.’

A selection of the artworks will be on show for a week each in a digital frame in the Vermeer gallery from February 6 until June 4. The original, meanwhile, will be on display as part of a blockbuster Vermeer exhibition at Amsterdam’s Rijksmuseum, returning to the Mauritshuis on April 1.

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